Liane Carlo Suelan

From the Top of the Bridge

The river chokes
on logs, fallen palm branches, and garbage;
on plastic and dead dreams from upstream.
From the top of the bridge, the stench of decay
assaults my nostrils, and my nose wrinkles in protest.
I watch the people below, who live in houses like matchboxes
by a stream of spilt gravy over rice,
smoke their cigarettes and drink their rhum
to numb their senses; the children play their tumba lata
and bathe in the old waterway fantasizing
clearer waters and calmer spirits.

We have fought for this,
for hours, standing by the streets,
raising placards and voices before the curtained windows
of city hall. The jeers
of passers-by have not fazed us,
for we grow more resilient, more angry
the more the river chokes.

From the top of the bridge,
the cars speed past me,
their master’s eyes set only on the road
to their destination
or the towers that kiss the clouds.
A plastic bag draws near as it dances to the gust
of the vehicles that must smell like “ocean breeze” within.

I can catch it before it wafts beyond the balustrade,
but my father’s voice echoes in my mind:
Let destiny take its course, son.
You are too young to understand,
but your time isn’t now.
You have no control over the world
or power to change it yet.
No power…

And I gaze at the bag as it descends
and becomes one with the tumors of the river.

Kuya Macoy

I stood there, leaning on the stone guardrail of the unfinished road by the sea, water crashing upon the seawall, sky transitioning into a burst of hues – peach, cherry, flame. The deteriorating, faux gold replica of Michelangelo’s David stood proudly behind me; his eyes towards the horizon, perhaps watching me, too. I reminisced the countless times I had seen the blood flow from my flesh, from every notch of the blade marking every day and degree of suffering. In the ninth grade, it started with a couple of shallow ones just because of a petty argument about failing grades, thin as a strand of hair, yet it stung like a papercut. Slowly, I grew accustomed to seeing my own blood out of my veins as though it were never meant to be kept in.

         I imagined death to be a dream, but not because I believed in a heaven or reincarnation. It was a dream because it was nothingness. It was freedom from a world that always had something. I wanted to escape the world that was slowly being consumed by fire. The same one from which all civilization began. The plight of people hopelessly toiling in a system that let the rich buy hectares of land for revenue while everyone else could barely pay rent or witness their makeshift houses torn down for business or estates became mine, too. The woes of others burdened me. I heard them, looked them in the eyes, with my dull eyes. Sad, hopeless eyes.

         I thought that nothing could be done to save us.

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